BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Far-right lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, promising to clean up politics, shrink the state and crack down on crime, in a dramatic swing away from the left in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
The former army captain, with close ties to the military, has alarmed many with pledges to sweep political opponents off the map and comments denigrating women, gays and racial minorities. In his first public comments after a landslide victory, he vowed to respect democratic principles.
An outspoken admirer of US President Donald Trump, Mr Bolsonaro also pledged a smaller government and to realign Brazil with more advanced economies, overhauling diplomatic priorities after nearly a decade and a half of leftist rule.
The seven-term congressman won 55.2 percent of votes in a run-off election against left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT)’s 44.8 percent, according to electoral authority TSE.
“We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and leftist extremism … We are going to change the destiny of Brazil,” Mr Bolsonaro said in an acceptance address, promising to root out graft and stem a tide of violent crime.
Mr Bolsonaro’s rise has been propelled by rejection of the leftist PT that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of a deep recession and political graft scandal.
The live broadcast of his acceptance speech was preceded by a prayer led by lawmaker, pastor and gospel singer Magno Malta, underscoring Mr Bolsonaro’s ties to evangelical churches that backed him for his pledge to defend Christian values, including his stance against abortion.
Mr Bolsonaro,63, said he would “unite Brazil” by cutting bureaucracy and freeing up businesses to prosper. He said he was committed to fiscal discipline and called for the early elimination of the federal government’s budget deficit.
The president-elect said he would shift Brazil’s foreign policy toward a focus on relations with developed industrial nations that he said could offer Brazil technology to add value to its economic output.